Arthur. The Street Dog from Ecuador that Finished One of the Planet's Most Difficult Adventure Races and Won the Heart of the World

No time to read? You can listen to the podcast episode of this story right here.

Adventure Racing is known as the most grueling endurance sport on the planet.

Traversing hundreds of miles through various terrain, climates, environments and multiple disciplines, it is more often a race of survival than time across a finish line. 

In 2014, Mikael Lindnord and his team from Sweden traveled to Ecuador for the Adventure Racing World Championships representing their country and their sponsor, Peak Performance. A stage for world class athletes from around the globe, this race wasn't just another competition; it was a career changing pursuit vying for the title of World Champions. 

However, what started out as a team effort of 4, quickly took an unexpected turn when an unlikely 5th teammate joined them on day four of the race. 

Adventure Racing World Championship Ecuador 2014. Arthur joined the team at mile 401 for the extremely dangerous jungle trek and paddling sections. Photo credit ESPN

Adventure Racing World Championship Ecuador 2014. Arthur joined the team at mile 401 for the extremely dangerous jungle trek and paddling sections. Photo credit ESPN

Arthur's story is nothing short of heroic and miraculous as he comes face to face with Mikael Lindnord, the team captain for Peak Performance- the man whose heart matched his own. 

Mikael was not a casual weekend warrior. In fact he was the complete opposite. Ranked #6 in the world in the sport of adventure racing was the culmination of nearly 18 years of commitment to a grueling training regime that spanned disciplines ranging from climbing, ocean kayaking, navigating through dense jungles, mountain biking and more. This was not a sport for the faint of heart. In fact, death amongst racers in this sport is not the most uncommon occurrence given the shear magnitude of physical effort across multiple days, hundreds of miles, various terrain, climate, and environments.

When Mikael and his team arrived in Ecuador, they came with the intention of winning and it was a plausible probability given the team’s track record of multiple podium finishes.

The races are broken into checkpoints. Teams can refuel with food and hydration and swap gear out for the next leg of the competition. On day four of the event, Mikael and his team entered a check in zone to find that they were only a few hours behind the leaders. Their competitive spirits were buoyed as they set their sights on catching them on the trek through the jungle. But, little did Mikael know at the time, someone else had set their sights on him.

“I sat down to eat but I could feel someone looking at me”, says Mikael. I looked over my left shoulder and that’s when I saw him. He was in really bad shape. He had blood on his back from some pretty bad wounds. To be completely honest, my first thought was ‘oh man, stay away from me because I don’t want those diseases.’ But, it was evident that no one had ever been nice to this dog so, I gave him one of my meatballs.”

Mikael meets Arthur for the first time at one of the race check points and shares a meatball with him. Photo credit ESPN

Mikael meets Arthur for the first time at one of the race check points and shares a meatball with him. Photo credit ESPN

As the team set out into the dark embarking on the next leg of the race, they had no idea that Arthur had decided to follow them. When the team stopped to make some adjustments to gear, that’s when Arthur approached and Mikael realized it was the same dog he had given the meatball to.

This particular section of the race was a harrowing navigation through dense jungle filled with mud, snakes, and other potential dangers. And it was at night. Mikael says he asked Arthur if he was really sure he wanted to go with them given the difficulties ahead. Arthur was undeterred and followed the team straight into the darkness.

Arthur and his team negotiate the muddy jungle terrain of the Ecuador jungle. Photo credit ESPN

Arthur and his team negotiate the muddy jungle terrain of the Ecuador jungle. Photo credit ESPN

It was a grueling 24 hour struggle through knee high mud in some parts and intense conditions. One of the team members needed medical intervention due to dehydration and exhaustion. When they stopped to rest, Arthur too was showing signs that the trek was taking a toll on him. They opened up two cans of their food and gave it to him. He was officially a part of the team.

When they reached the next checkpoint they were sidelined for 7 hours while medical care was provided. Arthur stayed by their side the entire time.

Mikael and Arthur. Photo credit ESPN

Mikael and Arthur. Photo credit ESPN

The final part of the course was a dangerous kayaking section and race officials said that Arthur wasn’t allowed to continue for his own safety. However, Arthur had no intention of obeying any race rules. As the team pushed into the murky waters, Mikael heard a splash behind them.

Arthur was swimming toward them as fast as he could.

The team slowed down and Mikael pulled him up into the kayak and into his lap where he warmed him with his jacket for the remainder of the paddle.

Arthur refuses to be left behind. Photo credit ESPN.

Arthur refuses to be left behind. Photo credit ESPN.

"It was so clear, he was a part of us. … There was something bigger in taking care of this dog than winning." -- Björklund. Photo and quote credit: ESPN

"It was so clear, he was a part of us. … There was something bigger in taking care of this dog than winning." -- Björklund. Photo and quote credit: ESPN

The team had no idea that Arthur and the four of them had become a media frenzy and Ecuador, Sweden, and the rest of the world was following their story with held breath.

The heroic story of a dog with the heart of a king and a team that welcomed him as a teammate, had created ripples around the globe.

Team Peak Performance Approaching the finish line. Photo credit ESPN

Team Peak Performance Approaching the finish line. Photo credit ESPN

In spite of the difficulties of the jungle trek, the need for medical attention, and acquiring a 5th, four legged team member, Team Peak Performance crossed the finish line as the 12th fastest team in the world. An amazing accomplishment with the most coveted prize of all…

Arthur.

Unsure of what to do, the team first sought veterinary care for Arthur. The thought of returning him to the village where he had first met Mikael was unthinkable. The next challenge was figuring out how to get Arthur to Sweden to become part of Mikael’s family. The process was almost as arduous as the race itself. Mikael had to contact the Department of Agriculture in Sweden as well as the Ecuadorian government. After four days of phone calls back and forth, it literally came down to 20 minutes before Mikael was to board a plane back home when all the final paperwork granting Arthur leave came through. The media frenzy was unprecedented as the people in Ecuador and Sweden clung to the story in anticipation of Arthur’s final journey to his new home.

Mikael and Arthur at the airport in Ecuador

After a 4 month quarantine in Sweden, Arthur was reunited with Mikael and welcomed into his new family with open arms. Mikael has written two books detailing the adventure of meeting Arthur in Ecuador as well as life back in Sweden.

Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home and Arthur and Friends can be found on Amazon or your favorite bookstore.

Thanks to Arthur’s story and the media attention it garnered, there is now a law in Ecuador called The Lobo Law that grants the animals protection and rights that they did not previously have. You can learn more about that by visiting Arthur’s Foundation.

Arthur now lives a life full of love, comfort, adventure (and all the meatballs he wants) with Mikael and his family in Sweden.

You can follow Arthur’s journey on Mikael’s instagram @mikaellindnord

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